Working From Home – Part 3: Six Top Tips

Many of us currently are either working from home or on Furlough. This often leads to poor work habits due to a change in our normal routine.

Currently here at Mern Chiropractic we are seeing a lot of patients who are experiencing back, neck and shoulder pain usually due to poor make-shift home office set ups.

We are hearing of people using coffee tables, beds and kitchen tables as desks. Others finding themselves laying on sofas and spending 8 + hours hunched over in awkward positions.

When working from home, it is vital that you set up a workspace that will help to support your posture and reduce potential pain related issues.

Here are some Top Tips:

Tip #1 – A Chair That Gives Support

Many of us are using a dining chair thinking this will be helping our backs.  While a dining chair may be fine for a couple of hours, over time it will become extremely uncomfortable due to a lack of back, neck and lumbar support.

Sitting at a desk for hours a day places pressure on our low back. Over time this can lead to potential disc and joint issues.

An good ergonomic chair will offer support and allow you to sit for extended periods of time without developing back or neck issues. These come in the form of chairs with actual back supports or chairs such as a saddle chair that automatically places our body into a good work position.

We understand that unless your work is supplying a good ergonomic chair then this option may not be possible, or you may just not have the room. Trying these on your current chair may offer some relief:

Seat Wedge/Wobble Cushion/ Towel/ Regular Cushion

Posture wedges encourage our pelvis to tilt and sit in correct alignment. By doing this it takes excess pressure of our spine and excess load on our discs.

A wedge can also also your hips and knees which helps with overall good posture.

A posture wedge and wobble cushion will also help to reduce you automatically slouching while at your desk. 

This will help not only your low back, but also your upper back, shoulders, and neck from extending forward. 

When our shoulders are placed in this position, we develop rounded shoulders, and our head extends forward which may cause headaches and will lead to a change in spinal curvature and increase load onto our spine and discs. 

Towel

Rolling a towel into a tube and placing at the curvature of your low back and against your chair will help to keep your back in good alignment.

Regular Cushion

If you do not have a wedge or wobble cushion, then even sitting on an everyday house cushion can help to take some of the pressure off of your spine and discs.

Calm comfortable spaces when working from home

Tip #2 –The Correct Desk Height

If you have been using a dining chair, high chances you have been using a dining table too.

Just like the dining chair, this may initially seem like the ideal set-up.  Depending on the height, then it may just be the best option you currently have. However, for optimal ergonomics some form of office desk is the best option for long term use.

Struggling for room when working from home? A small standing desk can fit into snug spaces and can be the ultimate solution for providing comfort and good posture day in day out.

Your desk height is the modern-day Goldilocks – Not too high; Not too low.

How to know your ideal desk height?

Using the following formula can help you find out what height you should be using.

  1. Calculate your height into inches.
  2. Add 1.
  3. Turn that into CM and you have your ideal desk height.

Example:

I am 5ft 8inches = 68 inches

Add 1 = 69

Ideal desk height = 69cm

Working at a desk too high or too low makes us stoop or strain into irregular positions which long term will place stresses onto our spine and discs and cause issues into our neck and shoulders.

Tips for monitor position when working from home

Tip #3 – Screen/Monitor Position

There is no disputing that working on a bed or sofa can start of feeling comfortable.

But what actually is happening is that our necks and head are being placed into poor angles and adding unwanted stresses.

The same can hold true even when we are sitting at desks, if our screen/monitors are in the incorrect position for us.

Our screens should always be ideally roughly arm’s length away from our eyes.

The top of the screen should be at level with our eyes.

You do not need to purchase a laptop stand or monitor adaptor, placing some books or a box to lift our screen can work wonders too.  Just make sure the screen sits on a stable platform.

What About Laptops?

The heights of our laptops should be exactly like our desktop screen/monitors – the top of the screen should always be at eye level.

Using props such as cushions or a laptop stand will help to place your laptop into its optimal position. The double edge sword of this means that the keys on our laptops will not be in the best position for our arms, wrists, and hands which long term can place stresses and strains.  If you are using your laptop all day for work, it is recommended to purchase a plug-in keyboard to resolve this issue.

Healthy hand angles are crucial for working from home

Tip #4 –Keyboard & Mouse

Using a laptop for 8+ hours is not great ergonomics and can play havoc to our posture.  With laptops we can either manage the correct arm set up or correct eye level, but not both. Not to mention that even although we can position the laptop in a good arm position, they are usually too narrow and will eventually lead to elbow and wrist issues.

Investing in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse will help to position your arms and wrists into a more natural position. This in turn will help your shoulders and therefore neck to sit at a more natural height. Our elbows and forearms should naturally sit at the same height as our desks and should be at shoulder width apart.

If our desk; screen; keyboard and mouse are all set to the correct heights and positions this will help reduce postural dysfunction and its subsequent consequences.

Lighting is key when working from home

Tip #5 – Good Lighting

The lighting around our workstation plays an important part when working for long hours.

If we are working in poor lighting, not only do we end up straining our eyes, but it can play a significant factor in our morale.

Where possible natural light is ALWAYS the better option. Facing the window with your screen away from the window is the best option.

If natural light is not an option, then try to aim for a gentle light rather than a bold strong light.  It could be worth considering buying a ‘task light’ where you can adjust for your preference.

Working from home should involve more fresh air

Tip #6 – Fresh Air

It is easy to get caught up with various things when working from home and we can often neglect getting out for some fresh air.  While working from home, it is important to remember to take time away from our desks and get outdoors.   Not doing that daily commute to work, we often miss the time to get outside and take in some fresh air.  Taking time off also gives us a different perspective, unwind and good for our mental well being especially if we are struggling with a task from work.

Dr Laura Nuttall DC

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